Islamophobia group relaunched

A parliamentary group to tackle Islamophobia has been re-launched at Westminster, with the support of MPs from across the political divide. The group originally sparked controversy after it was revealed that an anti-Zionist organisation was to act as its secretariat.

The newly reformed All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia was set up last week and will begin work immediately on an inquiry into the extent of anti-Muslim prejudice in Britain today.

The APPG will be co-chaired by Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes; Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Perry Barr, Birmingham; and Stuart Andrew, Conservative MP for Pudsey, Leeds.

MPs voted by 60-2 in July to drop the organisation iEngage from providing administrative support to the group. The Community Security Trust has described the group as having a "troubling attitude to antisemitism".

The vote followed the resignations of founder co-chairs Lord Janner and Conservative MP Kris Hopkins in February.

A report into the APPG by Chris Allen, an expert in Islamophobia from Birmingham University, was highly critical. He wrote: "Since its launch in November 2010, the APPG on Islamophobia has been little more than a sideshow: an unhelpful, unwanted and unnecessary distraction from giving Islamophobia the rightful, timely and necessary attention it so desperately needs.

"There can be no doubt whatsoever that the credibility of the APPG has been damaged."

It is hoped that the new group will be able to draw a line under the i-Engage controversy and make a fresh start.

Mr Mahmood, who has always taken a strong line against Islamic radicals, said: "The reforming of the Islamophobia group is a vital step forward in combating this insidious and increasing form of prejudice.

"I look forward to working with colleagues from across the political spectrum, in developing a dialogue that addresses both the causes and potential solutions of Islamophobia in all its forms."

Former Home Secretary Jack Straw urged MPs, at a meeting of the parliamentary Labour Party last week, to back the new group, though he blamed the collapse of the original APPG on a "campaign" by the JC.

The JC first broke the story about the problems with the APPG in February, after the resignation of Lord Janner and Kris Hopkins and has regularly returned to the subject. Mr Straw was unavailable for comment.

Editor Stephen Pollard - who said he was proud of the role the JC had played in the removal of the iEngage secretariat - added: "The JC has always supported the principle of setting up an APPG on Islamophobia and will follow the work of the reformed group with interest."

Last updated: 12:57pm, November 24 2011